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Monday, January 16, 2017
Finally, a Republican Leader Playing Offense
Brian C. Joondeph
In politics, as in sports, there is an offense and defense. In some sports the same players assume both roles, as in basketball and hockey, where a team may shift roles back and forth quickly as the game proceeds. In other sports, such as football, there are separate teams for offense and defense, specialists in their specific roles.
Political games often have separate teams for offense and defense; sometimes the political leaders, often their surrogates. In the case of Democrats, the media takes a prominent team role playing both ends of the field. The media can ignore unfavorable stories. A recent example is the sudden lack of interest or coverage of the Fort Lauderdale Airport shooting after the shooter's Muslim conversion was identified. And the media can play offense, as they are with ongoing and relentless attempts to discredit the incoming Trump administration.
What's new this political cycle is a sportsman who can play both ends of the field, and well. The pitcher who can hit home runs. The quarterback who can also play safety and intercept passes. The Michael Jordan who can not only score points, but also block shots and steal the ball.
Traditional Republicans specialize in defense, although poorly, and have little offensive skill. Normally Republicans are defending themselves against being racist, sexist, homophobic, anti-immigration, Islamophobic, starving children, pushing granny off the cliff, and wanting blacks back on plantations.
Republican offensive skills are on par with some of the more hapless NFL teams. First they needed control of the House to advance a conservative agenda, repeal Obamacare, seal the border, and so on. Done in 2010. Then they needed the Senate too. Done in 2014. Still the Republican offense was throwing incomplete passes and barely running past the line of scrimmage. Obama continued to score against the GOP.
They needed control of the White House, too, before going on offense. Done as of a couple of months ago. Yet Republican leaders still can't figure out how to not fumble the ball. Speaker Paul Ryan is already chipping away at one of President-elect Trump's signature issues, illegal immigration, by backpedaling on enforcing existing laws previously passed by his own Congress. Some offense. Fumbling the opening snap of the ball.
Enter the new star athlete, able to play offense and defense, able to hit and field the ball at the same time, both quite effectively. Without any assistance from the media. Donald Trump continues to befuddle the political-media establishment by throwing completions and intercepting passes from the other team. How does he do it?
His primary weapon is a combined baseball bat and glove, which can hit doubles and triples and grab line drives that are seemingly out of reach.
The @realDonaldTrump account is causing fits among the media chattering class. And their Democrat allies who have nothing in their playbook to stop Trump's Twitter train.
Looking at Trump's tweets over the past few days demonstrates his versatility on offense and defense.
Congressman John Lewis took a recent swipe at Trump saying, "I don't see this President-elect as a legitimate president." These types of comments are much like the classic question, "When did you stop beating your wife?" Unanswerable based on the original premise.
Rather than ignoring Lewis's jab or trying to explain why he is legitimate, Trump hit back. He promptly tweeted, "Congressman John Lewis should spend more time on fixing and helping his district, which is in horrible shape and falling apart." Stopping the fast break by blocking the shot. Great defense.
His recent press conference also showcased his defensive skills. Faced with a hostile press and squawking CNN reporter Jim Acosta, Trump looked to be overrun. Instead he intercepted the big media pass by calling out CNN for "fake news" and immediately changing the narrative. Then spiking the ball by tweeting, "@CNN is in a total meltdown with their FAKE NEWS because their ratings are tanking since election and their credibility will soon be gone!" To his 20 million Twitter followers, retweeted 34 thousand times to many more Twitter users.
Also, last week was the L.L. Bean controversy. A board member and company heiress contributed to a pro-Trump PAC. The #NeverTrumps immediately called for a boycott of L.L. Bean. Rather than distancing himself from L.L. Bean or returning the money as other Republicans might have done, Trump pushed back, tweeting, "Thank you to Linda Bean of L.L.Bean for your great support and courage. People will support you even more now. Buy L.L.Bean."
This is not part of the Republican playbook, the weak defensive line actually able to stop any run up the middle. But while playing defense, Trump can still move the ball up the field.
Not focusing only on defending himself, Trump is also advancing his agenda. Obamacare repeal, one of his primary campaign issues, has not been forgotten. He tweeted at the same time as the above tweets, "The "Unaffordable" Care Act will soon be history!"
He also supported his cabinet nominees currently under Congressional scrutiny, "All of my Cabinet nominees are looking good and doing a great job. I want them to be themselves and express their own thoughts, not mine!"
Singles and doubles, gradually running up the score. While at the same time catching fly balls, and throwing out runners at first base.
Imagine if Mitt Romney could play offense and defense, rather than letting ground balls trickle through his legs then striking out. Romney had good ideas that he could not articulate or sell to the electorate. He was unable to shut down nonsensical memes such as not paying his taxes, mistreating the pet dog, bullying kids in high school, or causing his employees to die of cancer.
Romney allowed himself to be painted as an out-of-touch rich guy, entitled and uncaring. Not at all true, but pushed by the media and the Obama campaign, with no effective pushback from Romney. And the result was a second term for Obama.
What would Donald have done? Far worse was thrown at Trump, from both Republicans and Democrats, from the Clinton campaign and big media. Continuing to this day, less than a week before his inauguration. Yet Trump continues to intercept passes and move the ball down the field.
What a refreshing change for Republicans to have a party leader who can play offense and defense, effectively. An athlete the opposing team has never run up against, at least since the 1980s. And they have nothing in their playbook to stop him.
A new team. A new star athlete. What a great four, and hopefully eight, years ahead!
Brian C Joondeph, MD, MPS, a Denver based physician and writer. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter.